ESTA: Have You Heard of ESTA – ‘Electronic System for Travel Authorisation’?
Since January 12th 2009, all travelers on the visa waiver program have been required to obtain prior authorization through ESTA before traveling to the USA.
Washington – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced the Interim Final Rule for the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), a new online system that is part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and is required by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.
“Rather than relying on paper-based procedures, this system will leverage 21st century electronic means to obtain basic information about who is traveling to the U.S. without a visa,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “Getting this information in advance enables our front-line personnel to determine whether a visa-free traveler presents a threat, before boarding an aircraft or arriving on our shores. It is a relatively simple and effective way to strengthen our security, and that of international travelers, while helping to preserve an important program for key allies.”
ESTA: Electronic System for Travel Authorization
Ever since 9/11, Customs Border Patrol (CBP) has argued that the VWP is a gaping weakness in border protection. The CBP have no advance idea as to who is on their way to the US until either they arrive at the border or after a vessel or plane has submitted its manifest of the passengers aboard. When considering the matter from CBP’s viewpoint, it’s very easy to concede that this notice is far too late. [Personally speaking, it is doubtful whether an early warning system could have prevented the horrific events in New York on 9/11 since, from what is generally understood regarding the hijackers, they all had valid visas and were residing in the US and had been for some time prior to the event]. Nevertheless the CBP is required to look at all areas of potential vulnerability across the spectrum.
The ESTA program has been designed to provide the CBP with a basic early warning system and to notify them of everyone who is travelling to the US without a valid visa. The VWP traveler from January 12, 2009 is required to register their intention to travel by entering the passport and personal information on the official ESTA website. Given the sensitivity of the personal information required to be submitted, readers are strongly cautioned against inadvertently putting such information onto a rogue site.
If you already have any kind of current and valid American visas then you are not required to register under ESTA, as ESTA is only intended for VWP travelers.
Once authorized to travel under ESTA, the authorization is typically good for up to two years, unless your passport expires within that time. ESTA revokes any previous authorization. ESTA authorized travel is good for multiple entries so you do not have to repeat the process each time you travel if you are a frequent flyer.
When you register under ESTA there are three possible outcomes you will receive notification of: your registration will go through without a hitch and you will be approved within moments of you hitting the submit button. ESTA quickly checks all of the various databases available about you, for example Interpol, US government state and federal agencies, and certainly other databases we have no public knowledge of. If nothing comes up at all then it will respond declaring you “Authorized to Travel”. Please note this does not mean that your entry into the US is guaranteed, it just means that they’ve found nothing at this point to indicate you should not even bother boarding a plane. In fact, if your ESTA registration comes back denied, then no carrier is allowed to even let you on board their transportation.
If ESTA discovers anything on your record that they need to look further into internally, the system will advise you “Authorization Pending” and ask you to keep checking the site for updates for up to 72 hours after that time. ETSA will post an approval or denial notice accordingly and refer you to your US Embassy if indeed you are denied authorization to travel. It is too early to say that even if you try to call the US Embassy on their highly expensive premium rate telephone number, that they will be able to give you any kind of specific answer as to why your case was denied. Since this system is very new indeed, we’d like to hear from you about your experience using it. For the Official US Government ESTA Info Page click here.
Needless to say, there will be a very small percentage of travelers who will be denied, however, given the millions of people now having to apply this fgure will still be thousands of people who will be denied daily.
We would advise any of our readers that before they make an appointment to visit the Embassy that they first take advantage of a consultation with the Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram. There are many reasons for doing this; firstly, the traveler will need to have their travel history examined (not only visits the US but to other countries too). Also, the traveler’s personal background will need to be checked to consider whether or not there is some legitimate reason for their registration to be denied. Maybe the traveler previously overstayed in the US on their VWP or any US visa, or maybe they failed to pay a parking ticket or any seemingly minor infraction of the law in the US previously, or they may have a criminal conviction in their home country or elsewhere abroad in the past that may be triggering the ESTA rejection. There could be any number of reasons that should be discussed with an attorney before proceeding to make any formal application or approach to their US Embassy.
If the thought of having to complete this on-line visa waiver precurser scares you or you have other questions in relation to any visa application, let us be the ones to give you a helping hand through the “Immigration Maze“. Immigration is not fun and in some cases it sometimes seems as though they don’t want outsiders moving into their country. That’s not necessarily true, but after 9/11 can you blame them for using a little more caution? Well, everyday we help dreams come true - call us today 001-661 254 8064 or complete our short questionnaire and let us know how we can help you!
US Immigration Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram
Chris M. Ingram LL.M., ESQ – Immigration Attorney
Admitted in New York.
Practice Specializing in US Immigration Law
520 Broadway, Suite 350,
Tel: 310 496 4292